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News Release

Date: October 25, 2006
Media Contact: Elizabeth Homan, 301-251-7970; Steve Simon, 301-251-7952

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National Portrait Gallery Invites MC Students to Participate in Town Hall Events with Leon Panetta and Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. at National Portrait Gallery
Sessions Will Give Students the Opportunity to Learn about Nation’s Presidency and U.S. History

The Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery will host a series of town hall sessions at the National Portrait Gallery with Leon Panetta and Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., who will be receiving 2006 Paul Peck Presidential Awards for their excellence in service to the presidency and portrayal of the presidency, respectively. Montgomery College will send students to the events to learn firsthand about U.S. history and the presidency.

The Paul Peck Presidential Awards were founded in 2002 and are the only national awards to celebrate achievement in support of the presidency. Each year an individual is recognized for service to the presidency and another for portrayal of the presidency. The awards are one of several presidential initiatives undertaken by the Portrait Gallery, which holds the nation’s only complete presidential portrait collection outside of the White House. The awards are named after Paul Peck, the National Portrait Gallery’s major individual donor.

On Saturday, Oct. 28, Panetta, former White House chief of staff, will receive the Paul Peck Presidential Award for Service to the Presidency and professor and author Schlesinger will receive the Presidential Award for Portrayal of the Presidency. The men will take questions at two, back-to-back town hall meetings held at 10 and 11:15 a.m. that morning at the National Portrait Gallery’s Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium in the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture.

Montgomery College’s Paul Peck Institute for American Culture and Civic Engagement, named in honor of the longtime college benefactor, will send students from the College’s Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus to participate in the town hall meetings. The institute, established in 2004, was created to celebrate and increase knowledge of American culture, history, principles and political traditions, and to inspire informed civic participation about critical issues affecting the local, national and global communities.

The Paul Peck Institute for American Culture and Civic Engagement serves students, faculty and staff of Montgomery College, the neighboring community and the greater Washington region by supporting speakers and events that encourage civic participation, such as the recent League of Women Voters’ Montgomery County Executive candidate debate on Oct. 12 at Montgomery College’s Rockville Campus.

This year, the institute began its own awards program for Montgomery College students who participate in civic engagement activities—such as organizing voter registration drives or volunteering for non-profit organizations. A donation by Peck to the Montgomery College Foundation helped start the program, which gives MC students the opportunity to earn either a Gold or Silver Civic Engagement Award for their work as volunteers or in minimally compensated roles, such as internships.

The institute is currently developing internship opportunities for Montgomery College students. In the future, the institute will encourage civic action with its grants program. Professors at the College will be able to apply for grant funds to use towards creative teaching projects that encourage community participation. Students will have the opportunity to receive financial support for community projects.

The institute’s signature program is its Jefferson Café initiative, which brings together small groups of people for discussions of American life and the role of the nation in a global community. Participants are asked to read a selected article ahead of time to help spur dialogue, but the format of the discussions is Socratic, based on asking and exploring questions rather than finding answers or reaching conclusions. Jefferson Cafés are held on Montgomery College campuses and at community centers, senior centers and libraries.

For more information about Montgomery College’s participation in the Paul Peck Presidential Awards, contact Dr. Amy Gumaer at 301-650-1380. To learn about the Paul Peck Institute for American Culture and Civic Engagement at Montgomery College, contact Dr. Francine Jamin at 301-650-1385 or visit:

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Montgomery College is a public, open admissions community college with campuses in Germantown, Rockville, and Takoma Park/Silver Spring, plus workforce development/continuing education centers and off-site programs throughout Montgomery County, Md. The College serves more than 55,000 students a year, through both credit and noncredit programs, in more than 100 areas of study.

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